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National Apprenticeship Week Spotlight: IBM

In honor of the third annual National Apprenticeship Week, we are highlighting our member companies’ leading apprenticeship programs. Over the last five years, the number of apprentices nationwide has grown drastically, with more than 545,000 apprentices across the country – many of whom call North Carolina home. Today, we’re highlighting IBM’s apprenticeship program, which launched just last month.

IBM has long been a leader in technology and employment practices, from the creation of System/360 and the launch of Watson to the company’s early focus on diversity and inclusion and investments in employee education. As a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company, IBM is committed to furthering innovation to drive a prosperous and progressive future but that mission cannot be achieved without the right talent in place to lead the way. Recognizing the need to fill a new talent pipeline in the wake of a debilitating skills gap afflicting industries across the country, IBM began implementing solutions as part of its New Collar initiative – a program focused on obtaining the right skills, not degrees. IBM’s apprenticeship program is an ideal fit to help bridge the gap between the attainment of skills and the hands-on application that is needed to solidify an individual’s learning experience. IBM’s first cohort was hired last month in RTP, IBM’s largest U.S. site. Committed to growing the program to 100 apprentices in locations across the country in 2018, IBM is focused on creating a 21st century program that cultivates emerging technical skills and cutting edge experiences.

Diversity is a key focus of IBM’s apprenticeship program, as diverse perspectives only serve to build a stronger company. The program will vary by role but all apprentices will complete more than 100 hours of instruction, while also gaining hands-on experience and guidance from IBM’s managers, mentors and subject matter experts. Integrated into IBM’s teams from the start, apprentices will provide integral contributions to IBM projects and get paid to learn and develop their skills.

In order to round-out its program, IBM is closely partnering with community colleges across the country. In North Carolina, those community colleges are Wake Tech, Durham Tech and Alamance. The alignment between IBM and its partners in education is critical, as made evident by the fact that almost 40% of IBM’s first cohort of apprentices has a direct connection to the North Carolina community college system. Not only does this partnership provide IBM with a market of students to tap into, but it also ensures students are learning the relevant skills to prepare them for future employment. If you’d like to read more on IBM’s program, please read this op-ed penned by Joanna Daly, IBM’s vice president of talent. We’re excited to see this program evolve and I look forward to sharing our final apprenticeship feature of the week with you tomorrow.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber